East High School administrators, ex-principal charged with failing to report student sex assault

DPS claims records show school did report

DENVER – The former East High School principal and four other top school staffers face criminal charges and are accused of failing to report an alleged sexual assault of a student by another student, who faces a sexual assault charge himself.

Prosecutors with the Denver District Attorney’s Office have charged former principal Andy Mendelsberg, Dean Jennifer Sculley, counselor Anita Curtiss, Dean Eric Sinclair and Vice Principal Jann Peterson with one count each of violating the persons required to report statute – a third-degree misdemeanor.

They were all served with summonses on Monday to appear in court May 16.

Additionally, the student accused of sexually assaulting the victim in the case was charged last month in Juvenile Court with one count of sexual assault, a class 3 felony.

The charges were first reported Tuesday by The Denver Post.

According to probable cause statements attached to the staffers’ summonses, the alleged rape happened off campus on May 12, 2016. The victim, a girl, was invited to the alleged male assailant’s home to watch a movie, but she was sexually assaulted.

The alleged assault happened on a Saturday, and the victim broke down while in class on Monday, then reported the incident to Sculley and showed her a bruise she’d received during the alleged assault, the probable cause statement says.

Sculley took the girl to the office of Curtiss, the counselor, and the two asked the girl if she wished to press charges against her classmate. But the girl said she “didn’t understand what that meant and told them both no,” according to the probable cause statements. But the girl did ask that the incident be noted in the alleged assailant’s school file.

Sculley called the girl’s father and said his daughter had been involved in a “sex assault with a male peer,” according to the probable cause statements.

From there, according to the probable cause statements, the staffers repeatedly took steps to eschew responsibility for the alleged assault, and some allegedly discouraged the victim from moving forward with the case.

According to the police documents, Sculley told the victim’s parents “it would be very hard on the victim if they moved forward with charges.”

Over the next two weeks, according to the documents, the victim returned to Sculley and Curtiss on several occasions to report that she was suffering from nightmares and anxiety, and that she was also being bullied about the incident.

Sculley at one point allegedly told the girl that “she has seen this behavior in a lot of the students at East High School and the quicker she moves on the better.”

Curtiss allegedly told the victim “some things are just more traumatizing for others and to find new friends already,” according to the probable cause statements. And she allegedly told the girl that she would be disciplined for harassing her alleged assailant if she had contact with him.

Curtiss also allegedly promised the victim the two would meet weekly – but that didn’t happen, according to documents.

The victim and her family continued to reach out to the other school administrators, according to the documents, and the girl “endured constant and relentless bullying from peers.”

Sinclair told the girl “he couldn’t do anything about the bullying,” according to the documents, and when the victim provided more than a dozen printed screenshots of text messages and social media posts in which she was being harassed, the documents say that Sinclair “filed the paperwork away in a cabinet and did not act.” The documents allege that Sinclair had asked the victim if she could “prove” she was being bullied.

Peterson, in one meeting, told the victim and her parents that the case “was one of the worst story [sic] of bullying she has ever heard,” according to the documents. During that meeting, Mendelsberg came in to say he was checking on the victim “to see if she was okay.”

The probable cause statement for Mendelsberg's charge says that he wouldn't let the victim's parents pull her out of school, and when he met with the parents, he allegedly told them he didn't know who their daughter was.

Last September, amid reports from Denver7 about school staffers’ failure to report the arrest of a Cherry Creek Schools security guard since convicted of an inappropriate relationship with a student, the victim and her parents learned about Colorado’s mandatory reporting law, according to the court documents.

Under the law, all five staffers would have been required to report the alleged sexual assault. In late September, the victim’s father contacted Denver Public Schools administration about his concerns.

And in November, East High School Principal John Youngquist, who replaced Mendelsberg when he retired in September due to an unrelated case, reported the information to the school’s resource officer. The officer then contacted the victim’s father and asked that he make a police report.

The victim and her mother reported the incident to Denver police the next day, according to the probable cause statements.

The victim in the case is not being identified because she is a victim of an alleged sexual assault and was a minor at the time, and prosecutors are not identifying the alleged assailant because he is a minor.

Will Jones, a spokesperson for Denver Public Schools, told Denver7 in a statement late Tuesday that the district’s records “indicate that the district did notify the Denver Police Department of this incident in March 2016.”

“We know how important it is to ensure that any student who has concerns about inappropriate or unlawful sexual behavior be fully supported and that concerns about abuse be promptly reported to law enforcement. We shave strong policies and procedures in place to support students and are committed to ensuring a safe learning environment in our schools,” Jones said in a statement.

He added that the district would continue to work with police and prosecutors “to understand better their concerns in this case.”

Principal Youngquist sent a letter home to East High families Tuesday notifying them of the charges, and asked that anyone with questions or concerns contact him.

Mendelsberg could not immediately be reached for comment.

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